With some 2,600 miles (4,300 kilometers) separating the southern tip of Patagonia from the northern border of Peru, Chile has a myriad of worthwhile attractions across a variety of geographical zones. Starting from the south, let’s work our way north on a tour of Chile’s 20 best tourist destinations.
Got a thing for penguins? Then look no further than Isla Magdalena, located just off the coast of Punta Arenas. Hundreds of the cute little critters can be seen up close and personal as they waddle around and huddle up together.
No hiker worth their salt would even consider visiting Chile without crossing Torres del Paine off the bucket list. The stunning treks of this world-renowned national park pass groaning glaciers, towering peaks, forested valleys, and crystal clear lakes.
Most people opt for a bus or a plane when traveling across borders, but in Villa O’Higgins, this isn’t strictly necessary. Intrepid travelers can do a hike through the unspoiled Patagonian wilderness and arrive in El Chaltén, Argentina just a few days later.
Hidden underneath a peninsula in the picturesque Lago Carrera General is the spectacular Cuevas de Mármol (Marble Caves). The aqua and turquoise waters bounce sunlight onto the roof of the caves, creating a stunning reflection that is unlike anywhere else on earth.
A very long stretch of isolated gravel road, cruising down the Carretera Austral is the quintessential off-the-beaten-track experience. There are heaps of national parks, hiking trails and campsites to stop off at along the way.
Just a few thousand miles offshore lies one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands. Easter Island is most famous for its mysterious Moai statues, but it’s got plenty of great scenery and fascinating indigenous culture as well.
Those with the energy and bravado should consider scaling Villarica, the mammoth volcano that towers over Pucón. It requires a strenuous eight-hour climb with crampons and ice picks, but the views from the top are so worth it.
No trip to Chile would be complete without a stopover in the enormous ciudad capital. Peruse some amazing museums, splurge on world-class fine dining, or just enjoy a few drinks with newfound friends in one of South America’s most exciting cities.
This trendy little seaport town has earned the reputation of being a true bohemian paradise. With jaw-dropping street art adorning almost every wall, Valparaiso is the place to be for hip young millennials.
Most of Chile’s wine is produced within just a few hours’ drive of Santiago. Throughout the region, a huge number of world-class vineyards offer wine tasting tours where a copious amount of vino is liberally dispersed among thirsty travelers. Salud!
Heading north of the capital now, and the first place worth stopping is the pleasant seaside town of La Serena. Head for nearby Islas Damas to hike, swim or snorkel among adorable penguins and sea lions.
A few hours inland from La Serena lies the tranquil Elqui Valley, Chile’s major pisco-producing region. Apart from indulging in the local produce, there are valleys to explore and some spectacular stargazing opportunities on offer.
It’s a long way north to San Pedro de Atacama, a small town in the middle of the desert that serves as the main tourism hub for this remarkable region. Visit steaming hot geysers, bizarre rock formations, and high altitude lagoons surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes.
Go on a tour of Chuquicamata, one of the world’s biggest open-pit copper mines. The free guided tour (these people make so much money that they don’t bother to charge) lasts several hours and provides a fascinating insight into the scale of this lucrative industry.
Fancy a beach break? Then check out Chile’s most happening seaside resort, which is brimming with revelers during holiday periods. For something different, the nearby ghost towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura give an intriguing insight into what life was like back in the 19th century.